Leeds Chiefs closing in on reinforcements as they look to bridge gap on rivals Raiders
SAM ZAJAC says Leeds Chiefs are closing in on a new import forward but are likely to have to wait until the turn of the year before he steps out onto the ice with the NIHL National outfit.
The Chiefs have been scouring the limited marketplace for a new face after Radek Meidl’s request to be released after just three months with the West Yorkshire club.
Meidl is thought to be on his way to play in Poland, leaving the Chiefs free to search for new blood as they look to step up their bid to push for the play-offs in January.
“It’s very tough to get somebody to come in at this time of year, particularly in the week running up to Christmas, the timing has not been great, so it is to be expected,” said player-coach Zajac, whose team will look to build on the four points they earned at Basingstoke last week when they ‘host’ fellow strugglers Raiders IHC in Coventry tonight (7pm).
“We would have loved to have somebody in before this weekend but, at the same time, we don’t want to rush it and end up with a guy just because we’ve got him for an extra weekend.
“There is a lot of hockey still to be played – we’ve still got more than 30 games left – so if it means waiting another three or four games to get the right guy in, then that is what we will do.
“We’ve had conversations with two or three different players we like the look of and we’re quite confident on one guy in particular. But he will not be available until the New Year if we go down that route.”
And while one potential route for bringing a much-needed additional body in may be delayed, Zajac was last night still trying to finalise a deal to bring in a British player ahead of today’s SkyDome Arena clash.
It won’t be known until later today whether that move has been successful or not.
Either way, the Chiefs head into the weekend buoyed both by their two victories in Hampshire and Monday’s announcement by owners Planet Ice that the much-delayed Elland Road rink would finally open its doors on January 31 next year.
It means a Yorkshire derby against Sheffield Steeldogs will be the historic first game staged at the venue.
But Zajac will keep his players grounded after such a positive few days as they look to close the gap on Raiders to just three points, with three games in hand on their Essex-based rivals.
“From my point of view, we found our identity last weekend in a way that we want to play,” added Zajac.
“Admittedly, at times it wasn’t pretty but it was really effective and that’s something that we’ve been building towards. All of the guys being on the same page is huge for us, everyone is buying into what we are trying to do here.
“But we can be flexible, especially when we get in that home rink, when we’ll be pressing more and we’ll be wanting to dominate games more. And while we’re on the road, we’re just doing everything we can to put ourselves in a position to be competitive for the rest of the season. If that means at times it’s not going to be the prettiest to watch but it gets us points then we’re happy to do that.”